Denn die Todten reiten schnell

Friday, 11 June

Yesterday evening I received a phone call from an extremely over-exuberant Leonard who had returned from his trip to London. He was desperate for me to visit him as soon as possible and so I agreed to drop into Elmfield House at lunchtime today on my way home from the university. When I arrived at the house he seated me in the cream leather armchair and presented me with a purple gift bag and from the way that he stood at the opposite end of the room with his hands clasped excitedly together I expected that the bag would explode in my face when opened at the very least! The bag contained two individually gift-wrapped items: a thin rectangular shape and a small box. The first was a copy of Henri Matisse’s Jazz that Leonard had stumbled across at a book fair in London and the small box contained a silver ankh on a delicate chain that he had bought from the Egyptian exhibition at the British Museum. I chastised him for buying something so beautiful and expensive, to which he smiled and replied “well, I didn’t know what to get you. I was tempted to buy you a crucifix but I thought that would be a little…predictable.” He clipped the chain around my neck and made me promise never to take it off.

We sat in the workroom eating cheese sandwiches and talking about the traffic congestion in London, the interesting Egyptian exhibition that he had visited one afternoon and how Sophie has grown since he last saw her. He was particularly keen to show me the contents of a battered old box that he had bought for Sophie's next visit. At first I thought that the box contained a doll but upon closer inspection I discovered that it was an antique witch marionette with a shiny wooden head, cotton-wool hair and delicate, spindly limbs wrapped tightly in a web of multicoloured strings.

Leonard explained that Sophie has fallen in love with the old puppet named Fidelio that sits on a high shelf in the workroom and he had promised to buy her a puppet of her own one day. I hadn’t noticed the Punch-like face staring down at us from the corner of the room until Leonard pointed him out and I was surprised to learn that Luke has fallen for Fidelio’s charms too, so much so that he has written a poem about him. Luke? A poet? This was news to me and I refused to believe it until Leonard showed me a sketchpad with a pencil drawing of the puppet and a poem written underneath in Luke’s handwriting. Fortunately I was able to scribble a copy of the poem into my notebook when Leonard left the room to feed Hooter.

Fidelio the Marionette

Who makes you dance, handsome grotesque,
With your ruddy hooked nose
And thin-lipped grin?

You collapse with a clatter.
A bitter clown,
Wretched and frail,
Staring in vacant hope to the skies.

But we are free.
Garishly painted golems
Feeding on your heartbeat
And dancing for our queen.

I pity your bones
When the termites creep near

So let us cut more strings
And see who stands.

I find it very difficult to convey the nature of Luke’s character to you, my dear reader, but this poem encapsulates his personality far more successfully than any attempt that I have made so far. Luke is extremely eloquent and he has an impressively flamboyant vocabulary, but his language often takes a macabre and menacing tone which suggests that his gentlemanly facade is somewhat misleading. Although he is relaxed and good-humoured most of the time, his temperament is unpredictable and once in a while his face falls into the chilling stare of the strictest authoritarian, his speech takes on the condescending firmness of a school-master and he can become both physically and intellectually domineering when he feels that he is not in control of a situation. He also has a tendency to make outrageous sexual comments and jokes at the most inappropriate times and - although I’m certainly not a prude by any stretch of the imagination – these comments are quite shocking given his innocent appearance and I can see that they make Leonard feel uncomfortable. He might sound like a monster of a man, but in truth Luke is a glorious and terrifying jumble of contradictions, which makes him all the more appealing to me.

Right, I must dash because Alex is taking me out to dinner this evening. He thinks that my ‘pre-exam results anxiety’ is showing on me and I am in desperate need of a night out…and I’m not complaining!